Monday, December 22, 2014
Superior Viaduct... have I recently been employed as their international marketing and publicity manager? No. There's no hidden agenda here: just a desire for folks to get their listenin' gear 'round only the best sounds. 100 Flowers' sole self-titled LP from 1983, originally released on their own Happy Squid imprint, is one such release.
Curiously, I owned the original of this at one point - purchased at the dawn of the 1990s - and stupidly sold the darn thing at the tail-end of that decade when I culled a pretty major chunk of my collection in an attempt to 'clean house' (didn't work). So I foolishly sold 100 Flowers, and now I've bought it back. 100 Flowers, as you perhaps should know, were basically the Urinals under a different moniker. The Urinals made some of the most inspired American documents in sound during their era, and you can read a quarter-arsed article penned by moi on the outfit here, one penned and published 15 years ago(!). That decade and a half came and went like it never happened. Phew!
The Urinals' primitive art-brut raunch was a thing of utter beauty, inspired everyone from the Minutemen (obviously) to Yo La Tengo (who covered 'em) and will live in the hearts and minds of all with a clue for eternity. 100 Flowers took a slightly different approach, and probably never quite reached the same critical/cultural kudos of their predecessor, but that's no reason to ignore 'em (or sell your goddamn copy of the original pressing). The trio - that's John Talley-Jones, Kjehl Jonanson and Kevin Barnett - took the basic minimal template of the Urinals but embellished it slightly with a more pop sensibility and eclectic approach. If I was going to dumb it down to a soundbyte - and I will - I'd say the band is caught somewhere between the sounds of the Minutemen ca. 1983 and The Feelies ca. Crazy Rhythms. There's a jagged, tight-assed approach and herky-jerky sensibility - hopped-up punk-inflected rock which is neither 'rock' nor 'punk' - combined with an LA art vibe which hovers around the same quarters as the likes of Boon & co. and Pagan Icons-period Saccharine Trust. None of this, of course, is a bad place to be. 100 Flowers would've fit in snugly in the SST roster, but you'd have to wait for Kjehl Johanson's next outfit, Trotsky Icepick, before that would happen (and the first three 'Icepick LPs are pretty fab, in a more pronounced and expansive Angloid Magazine/Chairs Missing manner). 15 short, sharp tracks, and the opener, 'Without Limbs', had it been released in an alternate universe, should've been a hit. It wasn't.
Below is a magnificent clip of the band playing the old Urinals chestnut, 'Surfin' With The Shah', with D. Boon and Keith Morris, joining them on stage. Alas, I was not there, and surely neither were you.